Unless you’ve been living under a rock of late, you will probably have noticed that over the last week or so, Britain has been having a right good knees-up to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. A couple of weeks ago, I posted photos of my own Jubilee party (http://bit.ly/LkIrBq) and luckily for me, someone at the renowned chocolatier Charbonnel et Walker, saw it, liked it and consequently sent me an invitation to their very own Jubilee celebration!
So last Thursday, my friend Cassie and I arrived at their Old Bond Street store in London’s Mayfair and were warmly greeted with a smile and a glass of champagne.
The shop had been thoroughly decked out in bunting and Jubilee-inspired gift boxes…
And even a chocolate crown!
There was an infectious atmosphere of excitement and anticipation as everyone mingled together. With the champagne flowing and spirits high, the Old Bond Street Manager, Adam Lee, addressed the room and welcomed us all, giving us a bit of background information about the Charbonnel et Walker brand.
I already knew of the brand and have enjoyed their chocolates in the past, but I had no idea how rich the history was.
To give you a little of the history…Charbonnel et Walker was founded in 1875 and is one of Britain’s earliest chocolatiers. It is also endorsed by the Royal warrant as the official chocolate manufacturers to the Queen.
The company first formed as a partnership between Mrs Walker and Mme. Charbonnel, the latter from the Maison Boissier chocolate house in Paris. Their original shop opened at 173 New Bond Street in Mayfair and has remained in Bond Street ever since.
Charbonnel et Walker’s exquisite chocolates are hand-made according to traditional recipes in their factory in Tunbridge Wells. Their hand-made boxes and satin ribbons are immediately recognisable and make an ideal gift.
Adam explained that their best-selling chocolate is the Pink Marc de Champagne Truffles. I have had these many times before and they’re incredible.
These consist of a milk chocolate, butter and Marc de Champagne centre with a white chocolate shell and a light dusting of icing sugar. Melt-in-the-mouth deliciousness.
We were also treated to the dark chocolate version although I preferred the milk version.
We also tried their classic milk truffles…
And their dark chocolates dusted in cocoa. I personally adore dark chocolate so the dark ones were my favourite. Intense, rich, smooth…perfect.
Then we moved onto their world-renowned speciality…English Rose & Violet Creams (apparently a favourite of the Queen and the Queen Mother!)
Decorated with a crystallised rose or violet leaf, the fondant creams are infused with rose or violet oil and coated in dark chocolate. As well as the fondant creams, we were also given rose and violet truffles…
I was surprised how much I liked the Rose creams. I’m not normally a fan of fragrant chocolates but these were so delicately fragrant, and so smooth, they were wonderful. I wasn’t as big a fan of the Violet ones but that is purely a personal thing. Everyone else seemed to love them. I’ve just never been a fan of Violet.
Next we were offered to taste some chocolates that are in development. Starting with the sublime Creamed Coconut encased in dark chocolate. I loved this one.
Next up was Passion fruit Cream. This was light and tangy and lovely, but not as good as the coconut. Again, this is purely a matter of personal taste.
Then…the grand finale. Clearly they had left the best til last…Sea Salt Caramel Truffles.
Wow! As you bite into the milk chocolate shell, you’re met with a liquid salted caramel centre. Bite into only half of it and you’ll end up in a mess, so this is best consumed whole. You can taste the hint of salt, which stops the caramel truffle from being too sickly sweet. I could have eaten a lot more of these, they were absolutely divine.
To round off the evening, we were all guided to the back of the store where we were greeted with tea cups of Pimms!
Whilst strawberries dipped in chocolate were passed around.
Cassie and I had a thoroughly wonderful evening. What can be better than an evening of chocolate truffles and champagne?! And we were even sent home with a goody bag containing the chocolate crown and a heart-shaped box of chocolate truffles! I went home feeling slightly queasy (in a good way!) from all the chocolate and champagne but extremely happy.
Thank you so much Charbonnel et Walker for the invite!
Charbonnel et Walker,
One, The Royal Arcade, 28 Old Bond Street, London, W1S 4BT
Tel: 020 7491 0939
www.charbonnel.co.uk (for more information on stores and stockists)
* The top two photos are courtesy of the wonderful Cassie Bennitt (@Miss_Lola_Mae)
When I posted photos of my Jubilee party the other day (http://bit.ly/LkIrBq), I got a lot of people messaging me asking me how I made my millionaire shortbread so here is my very simple recipe…
For the shortbread:
250g (8.8oz) plain flour
75g (2.6oz) caster sugar
175g (6.1oz) butter, softened
For the caramel:
100g (3.5oz) butter or margarine
100g (3.5oz) light muscavado sugar
2 x 397g (14oz) cans condensed milk
OR…2 cans of ready-made caramel.
Pinch of sea salt flakes (optional)
For the topping:
200g (7oz) chocolate (60/70%), broken into pieces. (This can be dark or milk chocolate. Personally, I recommend dark as the caramel is very sweet and if you add milk chocolate, the whole thing becomes sickly sweet. I used 64% cocoa solids.)
Pre-heat the oven to 180’C/Gas mark 4. Lightly grease a 13 x 9inch (33x23cm) Swiss roll tin.
To make the shortbread, mix the flour and caster sugar in a bowl.
Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Knead the mixture together until it forms a dough.
Then press into the base of the prepared tin.
Prick the shortbread lightly with a fork.
And bake in the pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes or until firm to the touch and very lightly browned. Cool in the tin.
To make the caramel, measure the butter, sugar and condensed milk into a pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, stirring all the time, then reduce the heat and simmer very gently, stirring continuously, for about 5 minutes or until the mixture has thickened slightly.
Or alternatively, go for the easy route and buy some ready-made caramel!
Pour over the shortbread and leave to cool. (You could sprinkle some sea salt flakes over the top of the caramel and stir it through so you have salted caramel)
For the topping, melt the chocolate slowly in a bowl over a pan of hot water. Pour over the cold caramel…
And place in the fridge.
TIP: Keep an eye on the chocolate…when it starts to set, score the chocolate into the size you want your squares to be. This makes it so much easier to cut once its completely set. Otherwise you’ll never be able to cut it into squares. It will just crack.
This made 20 squares but the squares were quite big, considering how sweet it is. You could easily make your portions a lot smaller.
This is such a lovely sweet treat…crunchy shortbread, soft, sweet gooey caramel and crisp, dark chocolate. What a wonderful combination!
When I asked my friend Jordan what kind of cake he’d like for his birthday, he replied…"Is it possible to make a Nutella cake? Does such a thing exist? I bloody hope so". I knew there I was one place to look….Nigella Lawson. And I was right!
Here’s how I did it…
FOR THE CAKE:
6 large eggs, separated
Pinch of salt
125g soft unsalted butter
400g Nutella (1 large jar)
1 tablespoon Frangelico, rum or water
100g ground hazelnuts
100g dark chocolate, melted
23cm Springform tin, greased and lined
FOR THE ICING:
100g hazelnuts (peeled weight)
125ml double cream
1 tablespoon Frangelico, rum or water
125g dark chocolate
1tbsp Golden Syrup
First, preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas mark 4. I always like to start a recipe by looking out all my ingredients first…
In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt until stiff but not dry.
In a separate bowl, beat the butter and Nutella together.
Then add the Frangelico (or whatever you’re using), egg yolks and ground hazelnuts and fold through..
Fold in the cooled, melted chocolate.
Then lighten the mixture with a large dollop of egg white, which you can beat in as roughly as you want, before gently folding the rest of them in a third at a time.
Pour into the prepared tin…
Place in the oven for 40 minutes or until the cake’s beginning to come away at the sides. Then let cool on a rack.
The cake will naturally sink after its been out of the oven for a while.
Toast the hazelnuts in a dry frying pan until the aroma wafts upwards and the nuts are golden-brown in parts: keep shaking the pan so that they don’t burn on one side and stay too pallid on others.
Transfer to a plate and let cool. This is imperative: if they go on the ganache while hot, it’ll turn oily.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the cream, liqueur or water and chopped chocolate, and heat gently.
Once the chocolate’s melted, take the pan off the heat and whisk until it reaches the right consistency to ice the top of the cake. At this stage, I added a tablespoon of Golden Syrup but that’s just me, you don’t need to do this. But personally, I thought it made the icing taste even better!
Spoon the chocolate icing over the top of the cake…
You could stop here. Nigella does. But I wanted a bit more icing over the top since it was so delicious, so I poured it around the sides so it drizzled over the sides. Mmmmmmmm….
And dot with the whole, toasted hazelnuts…
This is a beautiful cake. Even when I was making it, the smell of the toasted hazelnuts filled my flat with the most beautiful smell…I almost wanted to lick the air!
The cake was dense and moist, the ganache was smooth and rich. Pleeeeease make this if you can. It is absolutely delicious.
People who eat chocolate regularly tend to be thinner, new research suggests.
The findings come from a study of nearly 1,000 US people that looked at diet, calorie intake and body mass index (BMI) - a measure of obesity.
It found those who ate chocolate a few times a week were, on average, slimmer than those who ate it occasionally.
And chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, does contain antioxidants which can help to mop up harmful free radicals - unstable chemicals that can damage our cells.
Of course, while there’s no harm in allowing yourself a treat like chocolate now and again, eating too much might be harmful because it often contains a lot of sugar and fat too.
See more here - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17511011
I go a bit mad at Christmas and tend to buy anything Christmassy. I wanted to decorate my chocolate roulade with some chocolate leaves so I bought a silicone mould and made a simple mix.
I melted some dark chocolate and added a few tablespoons of golden syrup…
I then added a few some double cream. I can’t remember how much I added but just go by your own personal taste.
It should be a nice gloosy, shiny, thick mix.
Spoon into the moulds and pop in the fridge for an hour.
Then simply pop out of the mould.
Voila! A very simple decoration for cakes or you could wrap them up as a gift.
I knew I needed a centrepiece for my table when I had my Christmas party and my first thought was a yule log. However I was running out of time so decided to opt for a chocolate roulade. More or less the same thing but without the ganache over the top.
I immediately thought of Mary Berry’s chocolate roulade. She set it as a task in the last series of The Great British Bake Off (http://aspoonful-of-sugar.tumblr.com/post/11025270216/the-great-british-bake-off) and I wanted to try it out.
Its made without flour or butter so it as light as a feather. And it is absolutely delicious! Try it out this Christmas…you won’t be disappointed.
175g/6oz good-quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
6 free-range eggs, separated
175g/6oz caster sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
300ml/10fl oz double cream
icing sugar, to dust
Preheat the oven to 180C/160 Fan/Gas 4. Lightly grease a 33cm x 23cm/13in x 9in Swiss roll tin then line the base and sides of the tin with a large sheet of greaseproof paper, pushing it into the corners. Make a small diagonal snip in each corner of the paper; this helps to fit the paper snugly into the corners of the tin.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. (Do not let the base of the bowl touch the water.)
Place the egg whites in a large bowl and whisk until stiff but not dry. If you turn the bowl upside down, the whites should be stiff enough not to fall out.
Put the egg yolks in a separate bowl with the sugar and whisk using the same whisk (no need to wash it) on high speed for 2-3 minutes or until thick and creamy and the mixture leaves a thick ribbon-like trail when the beaters are lifted.
Pour in the cooled chocolate and gently fold together until well combined.
Gently stir two large spoonfuls of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen the mix, then fold in the remaining egg whites using a large metal spoon (you don’t want to squash out the air you have just beaten in).
Sift the cocoa over the top and lightly fold it in.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and gently move the tin around until the mixture is level.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes until risen and the top feels firm and slightly crisp. Remove from the oven, leave in the tin (expect the roulade to fall and crack a little) and set aside until cold.
Whip the cream until it just holds its shape. Lay a large piece of greaseproof paper on the work surface and dust it lightly with icing sugar.
Turn the roulade out on to the paper so its lining paper is on top, then carefully peel off the paper.
Spread the roulade with the whipped cream, leaving a border of about 2cm/¾in all the way around the edges.
With one of the shortest edges facing you, make a cut along it with a sharp knife, going about half way through the sponge. This will help to start the rolling up. Now roll this cut edge over tightly to start with and use the paper to help continue the tight rolling, by pulling it away from you as you roll.
Don’t worry if the roulade cracks - that is quite normal and all part of its charm.
Finish with the join underneath then lift the roulade onto a serving plate or board using a large wide spatula or two fish slices.
Dust with icing sugar and decorate with a sprig of holly.
It’s my chocoholic friend’s birthday today so last night I decided to make her the chocolatiest (is that a word??) cake I could. I remembered a recipe I saw in Edd Kimber’s new baking book for his Ultimate Chocolate Cake. A 3-sponge chocolate cake with ganache in between each layer and spread over the top and sides. Immense!
This cake was relatively easy to make, but the icing took a bit of time and patience! But the end result was worth it. The sponges were as light as air and the ganache was sublime. It also didn’t taste too sweet or sickly which was a surprise. I thought it might, given how it looks.
My chocoholic friend adored it and even my non-chocolate loving friends loved it! Overall, it was a great success!
For the sponge
110g / 3.8oz unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
110g / 3.8oz plain chocolate (at least 60-70% cocoa solids)
280ml boiling water
3 tbsp cocoa powder
280g / 9.8oz plain flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
340g / 12oz soft brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs, lightly beaten
For the ganache
225g / 8oz butter
285g / 10oz plain chocolate (at least 60–70% cocoa solids)
2 tbsp golden syrup
240ml double cream
Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Grease and line three 20cm round cake tins with baking parchment, then grease the parchment too.
Melt the chocolate in a microwave or a heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water.
Set aside to cool slightly. In a medium bowl, whisk the water and cocoa powder together, then whisk in the buttermilk and set aside.
Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt together into a medium bowl. In a separate bowl use an electric hand mixer beat the butter, sugar and vanilla together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Beat in the eggs, a little at a time, beating until fully combined.
With the mixer on low pour the cooled chocolate into the mixture..
Once fully combined, add a third of the flour mixture followed by half the buttermilk mixture.
Repeat and then add the final third of flour mixture.
Divide equally among the three prepared tins (I did this by weighing the mixture and dividing it by weight. A bit messy but worth it!) and bake for 25–30 minutes or until a cocktail stick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
To make the ganache, melt the butter, chocolate and golden syrup in the microwave or a heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Once melted and smooth, add the cream and mix to combine.
Remove from the heat and allow to set until spreadable, about 15–20 minutes. If the ganache is not setting at room temperature you can refrigerate, but watch carefully that it stays spreadable.
When the tins are out of the oven, cool in the tins for 10 minutes before inverting onto wire racks to cool completely.
To assemble the cake, put the first layer of cake on a serving plate or cake board. Spread a layer of ganache over the top of the cake and put the second cake layer on top, then repeat.
Put the final layer of cake on top and spread the remaining ganache over the top and sides of the cake.
Decorate with anything you fancy. Here I’ve used gold edible glitter.
— Charles Dickens
Chocolate truffles are one of most delicious treats to eat, yet one of the easiest things to make. For some reason, when you give them to people, they always seem to think you’ve made something wonderful when all you’ve done is mix melted chocolate and double cream together, chilled it then rolled it into balls! What can be easier than that?
This recipe makes 50-60 truffles.
225g plain chocolate, broken into pieces
175ml double or whipping cream
Icing sugar, cocoa powder or nuts for rolling
Melt chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a rolling boil and immediately pour over the chocolate. Alternatively, you can pour the cream over the broken chocolate pieces and stir until the chocolate has melted.
Blend thoroughly until all the chocolate is melted.
Allow the mixture to cool, uncovered, completely for 1-1½ hours at room temperature until it is set.
When the mixture has set, use a teaspoon to spoon out bite-sized pieces.
Roll the pieces into balls in the palms of your hands. (You can dust your hands lightly with cocoa powder to prevent them sticking). Immediately roll the truffles in sifted cocoa powder, icing sugar or finely chopped nuts and place on the prepared tray to set.
Voila! These are perfect little treats to serve after dinner. They’re also lovely as presents. You can serve them in small boxes or wrapped up in little packages.
I love Ben’s Cookies (www.benscookies.com) but seeing as they’re sold by weight they can be pretty pricey! I looked online for a recipe and found one that looked pretty good. I modified it a bit to suit my own taste and added some peanut butter chips. They turned out great and were delicious eaten warm from the oven.
200g/7oz unsalted butter, softened
300g/10.6oz caster sugar
50g/1.76oz cocoa powder, sifted
300g/10.58oz self raising flour, sifted
Milk and dark chocolate chips, however much you like
Peanut butter chips, again however much you like
(Makes 24 cookies)
Heat the oven to 190°C / 375°F degrees and line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth and light.
Beat in the egg then add the flour and cocoa powder and mix well. This is quite hard work as the mix becomes very thick.
Add chocolate chips and peanut butter chips. In this instance I added milk, dark and white chocolate chips.
Roll the dough mixture in your hands (it is very dry and thick so won’t make a mess) until you have a ball the size of a golf ball. Place a piece of chocolate on top and push it down into the ball.
Then roll in your hands again so the piece of chocolate is fixed in the middle. Place on the baking sheet and top with another square of chocolate.
Place in the oven for approx 9 minutes, keeping an eye on them. You want them to be squidgy and gooey inside so don’t overcook them!
These tasted amazing out of the oven when all the chocolate was still warm and runny but they were still really tasty the next day. They were still chewy but were really quite sweet. If you want an injection of chocolate and sugar, these are the cookies for you!
I’m always on the lookout for a good recipe for thin and chewy chocolate chip cookies that actually stay chewy. I have tried loads of recipes but I think I have modified them enough to come up with the perfect recipe!
125g (4.4oz) butter, softened
100g (3.5oz) light brown soft sugar
125g (4.4oz) caster sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
225g (8oz) self-raising flour
½ tsp salt
Handful of chocolate chips, milk or dark, whatever you prefer
Handful of peanut butter chips
Preheat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4.
Cream butter and sugars, once creamed, combine in the egg and vanilla.
Sift in the flour and salt, then the chocolate chips.
Roll into walnut size balls and place on ungreased baking paper.
Bake for just 7 minutes, till the cookies are just setting - the cookies will be really doughy and delicious.
Take out of the oven and leave to harden for a minute before transferring to a wire cooling rack.
These are great warm but they were really lovely the next day too. They stayed chewy and weren’t too sweet. They were really tasty. I will definitely make these again.
If individually wrapped in cling film/plastic wrap, the keep very well in the freezer.
Following the previous brownie recipe, I decided to try a different one, this time adding cocoa powder in the hope they would be a bit more gooey. It worked!
250g (9oz) unsalted butter, softened
200g (7oz) dark chocolate (over 70% cocoa content)
50g (2oz) cocoa powder, sifted
75g (3oz) plain flour, sifted
2 tsp baking powder
350g (12oz) caster sugar
4 large eggs
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan oven), Gas 4. Line a 23cm (9inch) square tin with baking paper.
Melt butter and chocolate over simmering water and mix till smooth.
In a large separate bowl mix the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and sugar then add the chocolate mixture to this.
Beat the eggs and mix in thoroughly till you have a silky consistency
Add chocolate chips and peanut butter chips.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and put the tin in the oven.
Bake for around 25 minutes until well risen and firm to the touch. Don’t overbake!
Allow them to cool then cut into squares.
The smell coming from the kitchen while these were cooking was absolutely divine. I had to try one as soon as they were out of the oven and they were indeed, delicious and very, very gooey.
Even better…they were still gooey and fudgey the next day. They taste amazing when heated and served with extra thick double cream. Mmmmmmm……